CHARLESTON, S.C. — The expansion by aeronautics giant Boeing will continue apace in South Carolina next year as hundreds of jobs are moved in and new construction progresses in the Lowcountry, where the company assembles its 787 Dreamliner.
It’s all part of company plans announced this year to invest an additional $1 billion in the state and create 2,000 jobs over eight years.
In the new year, Boeing in South Carolina will:
• Continue work on a new plant to make jet engine air inlets for the 737 MAX. The plant is expected to be complete in late 2014 with production in 2015 that could later be expanded to a variety of propulsion work. It’s the first South Carolina production work beyond the 787.
• Break ground on a new facility to paint completed 787s with airline logos. Currently the new generation airliners are flown to Texas for painting before being returned to South Carolina for delivery to customers.
• Begin transferring in as many as 400 employees as part of the company’s restructuring of its research operations. Two company design centers are coming to the state.
The company this month entered a long-term lease with Palmetto Railways, a division of the state Commerce Department, for 470 additional acres of land for future expansion. Boeing can purchase the land at the end of the lease term in 2027.
The land will be the site of the new paint facility, but the company had no immediate plans for the rest, said Jack Jones, a Boeing vice president and general manager of the company’s South Carolina operations.
“Now that we have the land, all we have is the land. There is no plan on the side or some secret. We have the land, we have the flexibility, and that is where we are at,” Jones said last week.
He said opening an engineering design center in South Carolina will mean jobs for engineers from the East Coast.
“It’s exciting because we do believe we have opened up a whole new recruiting area for our engineering talent,” he said. “If you look deep into the South and the East Coast, very few engineers were coming into the Boeing company.”
He said the paint facility will make operations more efficient so Boeing doesn’t have to interrupt production in South Carolina by flying the completed planes to Texas for painting.
“One of the biggest areas that a customer will look at and is sensitive to - just like you and I are when we buy a new car - is the paint. That’s the one thing we all see at the airport,” Jones said. “Paint is very, very critical.”
The company already has a sizeable footprint in the state.
Boeing built a $750 million, 1.2-million-square-foot assembly plant, and the first Dreamliner made in the state came off the assembly line in April 2012. Adjacent to the 787 manufacturing plant, Boeing has an almost 60,000-square-foot delivery center where airlines take final delivery of their new planes.
A plant that makes interior components for the 787s is located a few miles away, adjacent to the site of the new propulsion plant. Boeing already employs about 6,700 workers in South Carolina.